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Salivary Glands  
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The parotid gland is the largest of the salivary glands.

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Definition  

Parotidectomy is surgery to remove all or part of the parotid gland. These glands make saliva. They are located on your jaw, in front of and below each ear.

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Reasons for Procedure  

The surgery is done to:

  • Remove a tumor in the gland
  • Remove lymph nodes that could be cancerous
  • Treat recurrent infections in the gland
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Possible Complications  

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Numbness of the face and ear
  • Damage to the nerve that controls the movement of muscles in your face
  • Saliva drainage—Saliva may pool in the upper neck after surgery. It may also drain through the incision after it has been closed. This is temporary.
  • Frey’s syndrome—This happens when salivary nerve fibers grow into the sweat glands. While eating, some people may notice sweating on the side of the face where the surgery was done.
  • Fistula—This is an abnormal connection that may occur between the mouth, nose, throat, or skin.
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Swelling of your airway

Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:

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What to Expect  

Prior to Procedure  

Before the surgery, your doctor may:

  • Do a physical exam and review your medical history
  • Order blood tests and have x-rays taken
  • Talk to you about any medications, herbs, and dietary supplements that you may be taking—You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.

Be sure that you have a ride to and from the hospital the day of your surgery.

Anesthesia  

General anesthesia will be used. It will block pain and keep you asleep through the surgery. It is given through an IV or nasal mask.

Description of the Procedure  

The doctor will make a cut in front of the ear and down into the neck. The nerves in the area will be located and protected during surgery. There are two types of parotidectomy surgery. The type you will have depends on why the surgery is being done.

If you have a tumor and it is above the facial nerve, then a superficial parotidectomy is done. The tumor and affected tissue can usually be removed safely without harming the nerve.

If you have a tumor that surrounds or grows into the facial nerve, a total parotidectomy is done. The tumor, affected tissue, and parts of the nerve are removed.

After all tissue has been removed, the area will be closed with sutures. A drain will be placed behind your ear. It will be used to remove any fluids, such as blood and saliva, from the wound.

How Long Will It Take?  

  • Superficial parotidectomy—3-4 hours
  • Total parotidectomy—5 hours

How Much Will It Hurt?  

Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.

Average Hospital Stay  

Most will go home the day after surgery, once they are able to eat and walk around on their own. Some may need to stay longer if there are any complications.